A karate instructor has come forward to address the growing problem of homophobia and transphobia in the Icelandic sports community.
In a recent interview with GayIceland, karate instructor María Helga Guðmundsdóttir said she believes a discussion needs to be had about the problem of homophobia, transphobia and bullying in the world of sports. She points out that while there is a whole section of the website of The National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) devoted to substance abuse and bullying, no mention is made of queer and trans athletes.
María says that she knows of many incidents of prejudice towards queer and trans athletes, not just from fellow athletes but also from coaches themselves.
“A friend of mine has also experienced attitudes towards queer women in basketball,” she said. “She told me that hate speech is rare, but erasure and silence are common. For example her coach would always refer to her and her girlfriend as sisters. And, then the younger girls were insecure about showering with players who were lesbians, but it was never brought up, never dealt with openly.”
Transphobia is also unfortunately not uncommon in the world of sports. In particular, gender identity and biological sex are often given undue or misguided focus as they pertain to athletic competition.
“For example, there has been a practice for decades now of gender testing female athletes who compete in women’s sports’ categories,” she said. “Nominally this is meant to ensure that men don’t pretend to be women to gain a competitive advantage in sports, but the effect is basically to police femininity in these environments and to humiliate women, from women who have atypical hormonal production, to intersex women who have chromosomal variations. There have been cases of athletes who have been banned from competing because they turned out to have XY chromosomes but they had complete androgen insensitivity and therefore derived no competitive advantage from their supposed male biological status.”
As such, María believes this matter needs to be addressed substantially.
“ÍSÍ should set the tone over all and then the sports clubs should follow-up,” she said. “The sports movement needs to be less afraid to talk about these things. A lot of queer athletes probably keep their mouths shut for far a longer time than they have to, because they’ve experienced enough prejudice in their lifetimes and they don’t want to invite more. We often tend to make an instinctive choice to be silent, because opening up makes us anxious, and I don’t think we have to. We need to recognize that it’s not as dangerous as we’d like to think.”
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